Ramayana states of itself that it is ‘Itihaasa’ (इतिहास). ‘Itihasa’ is commonly translated as ‘history’. More precisely, ‘Itihasa’ is a Sanskrit combination word comprised of three parts – ‘iti, ha and Asa’ and means ‘it thus – in truth – happened’. Also, the Sanskrit ‘iti’ (इति) means ‘it’ and is most likely the source word for the Anglo-Saxon or English ‘it’.
The story of Ramayana is at least 7000 years old. The planetary positions in the sky mentioned in the Ramayana, especially the combination of planetary positions at the time of Rama’s birth as well as when the other events in this epic take place, have not occurred in the last 7000 years. We probably as yet have no software which can calculate as to when the same planetary positions might have occurred in a time frame prior to roughly 5000 BC, the time at which Ramayana seems to have taken place.
The following is the description of Sri Rama’s return flight from Lanka to Ayodhaya as described in the verses of Valmiki Ramayana:
After his victory over Ravana, Sri Rama prepares to leave for Ayodhya and calls for the Pushpaka vimana. The flight traces the same path that he had walked from Ayodhya to Lanka along with Sita and Lakshmana over a period of almost 14 years – the period of his exile.Vibhishana, who after the defeat and death of Ravana, had been installed as the ruler of Lanka, organizes the departure of Sri Rama, Sita and Lakshmana.*
Sri Rama, Sita and Lakshmana ascend the Pushpak Vimana. The vanaras at Lanka then request Rama to allow them to accompany him on board the ‘spacious’ Pushpak vimana, which Rama willingly permits. (Chapter 122).
The Pushpak vimana then takes off with a ‘great sound’. (Chapter 123, Verse 1). Once in air and flying over Lanka, Sri Rama turns towards Sita and says, “Look at the city of Lanka, resting firmly on the mount of Trikuta, looking like a peak of Mount Kailasa and built by Viswarakarma, the universal architect.” (Chapter 123, Verse -3).
|Mt. Trikuta, Lanka.
The Pushpak Vimana flies past it.
Sri Rama points to the great battle field which is still covered with the blood and flesh of the Lanka rakshas and the vanaras who have lost their lives during the battle. (Chapter 123 – Verse 4).
In the verses that follow Sri Rama points out the locations at where Ravana, Kumbhakarna, Prahasta , Vidyunmali, Indrajit (the son of Ravana), Vikata, and other mighty demons had fallen in the battle. (Chapter 123, Verses 5-14).
Having flown over the battle field the Pushpak vimana then flies over the ocean. Sri Rama states, “O Sita, the lovely-faced one! Here is seen a water-descent of the ocean on the sea-shore, where having crossed the ocean, we spent that night.” (Verse 15).
Now comes the mention of the Nala Setu which in India is referred to as ‘Rama Setu’. The western world refers to it as ‘Adam’s Bridge’. Says Sri Rama, “O Sita, here is the bridge called Nala Setu, which was so difficult to execute for others, got built by me over the salt-sea for your sake.” (Verse 16). Nala was the architect of the bridge.
|A satellite picture of the now
The next verse confirms that the Pushpak vimana is indeed flying over water. “O Sita! See this roaring imperturbable and seemingly boundless ocean, the habitation of Varuna (the god of waters), which is teeming with conch and oyster-shells.”. (Verse 17).
In Verse 18, Sri Rama points out the ‘golden mountain’ named ‘Mainaka’. In Verse 19, he points out an island were he says that Lord Shiva “bestowed his grace on me”.
As they fly ahead Sri Rama directs Sita’s gaze to Setubandha, “Here is seen the water-descent of the gigantic ocean, called a Setubandha, adored in all the three worlds. This is very much a sacred spot, capable of washing away major sins. At this very place, Vibhishana the king of demons first came to meet me.” This spot has been identified as Rameshwaram.
|Nala Setu or Rama Setu.
The bridge that was constructed to connect
Rameshwaram and Sri Lanka
Flying ahead the vimana reaches Kishkinda where Sri Rama points out to Sita the beautiful city of Sugreeva. (Verse 22). It is here that Sita requests Rama that they should make a halt and meet Sugreeva and other ‘vanara’ commandos who were stationed at Kishinda. Sita requests that the vanaras and their wives also be taken along on board the Pushpak to the city of Ayodhya. (Verse 23-24). Sri Rama agrees and the Pushpak lands at Kishkinda!
Sri Rama meets Sugreeva and says to him,”O the king of monkeys! Instruct all the monkey-chiefs to come to Ayodhya in the company of their wives.” (Verse 27).Sri Rama instructs all to hurry up! Sugreeva informs Tara, who in turn informs all the vanara-wives. There is general excitement all over – the vanaras and the vanaris are beyond themselves at the news that they will be visiting the grand city of Ayodhya and that too on the Pushpak.
The next verse says, “Duly permitted by Tara, all the wives of the vanaras, going round the vimana clockwise, ascended it with an intent to see Sita (who hasn’t de-planed and is still seated in the Pushpak). (Verse 36). The Pushpak then takes off and is now headed towards Ayodhya. Verse 37 says, “The vimana having risen quickly, after having taken the wives of vanaras too, Rama again spoke to Sita at the vicinity of Mount Rishyamuka. He tells her that it was at Rishymuka that he had first met Sugreeva and made the agreement to kill Vali (Bali).
|The temple at Rishimukha in Kishkinda on the spot
where Sugreeva is believed to have lived close
to the banks of the Pampa-Tungabhadra River.
Kishkinda is 5 km away from the sacred city of Hampi.
They then fly over the Pampa River and Sri Rama recalls, “Here is seen Pampa-river……where I lamented with great pain, having been separated from you…. the virtuous Shabari was seen by me at the bank of this river …. Here was killed, Kabandha…”. The Pampa River is now known as the Tungabhadra. (Verses 40-41)
They then fly over the forest of Janasthana where Jatayu was killed. Passing Janasthana forest they fly over Panchavati where Khara, Dushana and the Trishiras were killed. (Verse 44)
And then Sri Rama points out the spot from where Sita had been abducted, “And over there is seen our enchanting leaf-hut, where you were forcibly taken away by Ravana.” (Verse 45).
The flight which is heading towards Ayodhya then flies over the hermitages of rishis and munis (sages) including Sutikshna, Sharabhanga, Atri and many more. (Verses 46-49).
They then fly over Chitrakuta, the spot where Bharat had come to meet with Sri Rama and pleaded with him to return to Ayodhya at the beginning of the exile. (Verse 51).
The flight now crosses over the Yamuna and Sri Rama says, “O Sita! Here is seen the beautiful river of Yamuna, surrounded by colourful groves. Here is seen the illustrious hermitage of Sage Bharadwaja.” (Verse 52).
And then they are flying over the Ganges. “Here is seen the holy River Ganga, which wends its way through the three worlds (viz. heaven, the earth and the subterranean world), whose banks are crowded with flocks of birds and which is lined with trees in full-flowering.” (Verse 53).
On to Sarayu River. “Here is the town of Shringaberapura, where Guha my friend stays. Here is seen that river, Sarayu, lined with rows of sacrificial posts (the relics of sacrifices performed from time to time by Ikshvaku dynasty)……” (Verse 54).
The Pushpak Vimana takes a detour
into present day Uttarakhand,
the land of the rishis, before landing at Ayodhya
And then they are at Ayodhya! “O Sita! Here is seen that Capital City of my father. O the princess of Videha! Having duly returned, offer your salutation to Ayodhya.” (Verse 55)
Then Sri Rama, Sita and Lakshmana and the rest of the entourage including Vibhishana catch the first glance of the then majestic city of Ayodhya, its palaces and wide roads crowded with elephants and horses. The city resembled Amravati, the City of Indra, the lord of the celestials….
And the rejoicing continues. It was the first time Deepavali was celebrated on that Amavasya night. Imagine the site from the skies…..
For those who have claimed that the geography of Ramayana is questionable, one might add here that apart for a few detours that the Lanka – Kishkinda – Ayodhya flight takes, the route is perfect. And the few detours that are taken are ordered by the ever indulgent Sri Rama – hence confirming that he was aware of th scheduled route. This was a victory-cum-joy ride for the vanaras (who had valiantly fought for Sri Rama) and their wives and above all for Sita Mata.
*With Ramayana verses and translation inputs from http://www.valmikiramayan.net/